PLUM VILLAGE & MINDFULNESS

 Morning light on the garden of Plum Village, a nun is watering the plants

 

BEING PEACE


On my bookshelf at home is a small grey book, with a crease in the paperback cover. I must have already read this book ten times, but I know I will read it many more. The title is simple: Being Peace. Inside, it is filled with words that seem so clear, so insightful, that, were they to jump out of the page, they would become a still pond with sparkling waters. 

I first read Being Peace at around age eleven, and back then the name of the author - one Thich Nhat Hanh - seemed exotic and slightly silly. Now, though, it evokes reverence in my mind. Hanh was my unseen teacher for so many years, until I visited Plum Village in France to hear him speak. His words have made such an influence on my life that I can even trace this website's creation back to them. For, it was upon my first reading that the joys of the world were made clearer. I began to actively search for the beauties of the Earth in simple things. And each reading after that ingrained the habit further. Now, I would love to share with you some of Thich Nhat Hanh's words:

Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time.

If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace. Do we need to make a special effort to enjoy the beauty of the blue sky? Do we have to practice to be able to enjoy it? No, we just enjoy it. Each second, each minute of our lives can be like this. Wherever we are, any time, we have the capacity to enjoy the sunshine, the presence of each other, even the sensation of our breathing. We don’t have to go to China to enjoy the blue sky. We don’t have to travel into the future to enjoy our breathing. We can be in touch with these things right now. It would be a pity if we were only aware of suffering.

We tend to be alive in the future, not now. We say, “wait until I finish school and get my Ph.D. degree, and then I will really be alive.” When we have it, and it’s not easy to get, we say to ourselves, “I have to wait until I have a job in order to be really alive.” And then after the job, a car. After the car, a house. We tend to postpone being alive to the future, the distant future, we don’t know when. Now is not the moment to be alive. We may never be alive at all our entire life. Therefore, the technique is to be in the present moment, to be aware that we are here and now, and the only moment to be alive is the present moment.
— THICH NHAT HANH - BEING PEACE
 Plants in the garden of plum village in the morning light
 Paths between the lettuces at Plum Village
 Nuns sitting outside in the fields above the orchard at Plum Village
 An orange and black spotted butterfly on a daisy in the meadow

PLUM VILLAGE

MEMORIES OF PRESENT MOMENTS

Arriving with uncertainty to the small monastic hamlet where I was to stay for the next week. 
Waking each day to walk in the fresh air, under a waning moon, to the meditation hall.
Drinking numerous cups of tea, hands clasped around the mug.
Watching the buddhist nuns pick cherries from the tree with wooden hooks.
The beaming faces of the nuns, like every atom of their skin was glowing with happiness when they laughed together.
Making the most wonderful friends, with a group of women who I will never forget - Rachel and her mother Laura, Katy, Elisabeth, Jackie, Leonara, Sandra, Sirisha and Kathryn. 
The porridge with nuts and fresh fruit for breakfast. And eating each meal in contemplation, feeling truly grateful.
The three breaths on the sound of the clock chiming: a moment of peace.
Sharing poems with Rachel, and talking about her grandmother's ring.
Washing up dishes with friends, and the silky smoothness of water on a clean plate, when you focus on the feeling.
The croaking frogs in the pond. Sitting very still, they would appear above the surface and leap between lily pads.
Eating strawberries in the garden.
Talking with Katy about traveling. That wonderful laugh she had, and the awesomely mixed-up accent - from Belgium, America and Mexico.
Elisabeth's blue eyes, and our conversations about clairvoyance.
The slow progression of my mind from cynical and whirring, to thoughtful and calm. 
Running alone through the orchard, and chasing butterflies.
The incredible energies in the room of the Dharma talk, where all kinds of beautiful souls had gathered on cushions and mats to listen.
Helping the nuns in the construction of a new house for the hamlet. I couldn't help smiling when I watched them mix the cement!
Laughing uncontrollably with Katy over the prickly, spiny lettuce during the silence of a meal.
A sneaky wine and deep talks, shared with my friends in the nearby town of Duras on the last night.

 

 Sunspots filtering through trees at Plum Village hamlet
 Bhuddist nuns enjoying a walking meditation among the orchard trees at Plum Village
 Little ladybug on a tree in Plum Village
 Leafy trees and the beauty of nature
 Breakfast meal at Plum Village - porridge, fresh fruit, nuts and prunes
 Katy sitting beneath some trees at the hamlet of Plum Village, the frogs chirruping in the background
 Rachel having a cup of tea at Plum Village
 The orchard at Plum Village, with a pagoda roof peeking through the trees
 Elisabeth drinking tea by the window
 Togetherness 
 Sunset over the beauty of Bordeaux and fields near Plum Village
There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.
— THICH NHAT HANH